Missing mother of two Nicola Bulley was last seen almost two hours before police were called, the Telegraph can reveal.
The last reported sighting of Ms Bulley, who vanished 14 days ago in the village of St Michael’s on Wyre, was at 9.10am when she was seen walking with her dog, Willow.
A trace of “telephony” records allowed investigators to conclude that the 45-year-old’s phone was on a bench overlooking the river, where they believe she slipped and fell in, by 9.20am.
At 9.33am, a witness found the dog’s harness on the grass between the bench and the river’s edge, along with the phone.
Today, Lancashire Police confirmed it only received a call about the disappearance at 11am – almost two hours after the last confirmed sighting of Ms Bulley.
The time frame could explain why police search teams were unable to locate Ms Bulley’s body in the immediate area where she is believed to have fallen into the river.
Friends of Ms Bulley have previously said that the first person to stumble across the dog and phone initially tied the pet to the bench and messaged a family member asking if they knew who it belonged to.
When they were told they believed the dog and phone were Ms Bulley’s, the local primary school, where her children attend, was notified at around 10.50am.
The school in turn notified Mr Ansell. It was around this time that the emergency services were called.
It comes as private search team Specialist Group International (SGI) called off their attempts to find the missing dog walker after three days scouring the River Wyre.
Speaking after Ms Bulley’s partner had attended the site of the disappearance, SGI’s founder, Peter Faulding, said he believed that “if she was in the river she would have surfaced by now”.
He added: “She may never be found. We don’t know. No one knows. It is unusual because usually you have some evidence. Here we have nothing. We have nothing to go on apart from a phone and a harness.”
Mr Faulding said that normally, in cases like this, he would have expected police divers to find Ms Bulley in the water just below the bench, if she had indeed slipped in.
“In my 20-odd years of doing this, I have worked on hundreds of cases [and] I have never seen anything so unusual,” he said.
Lancashire Police maintains its working hypothesis is Ms Bulley slipped and fell into the River Wyre, possibly after an issue with her dog.
Family and friends of Ms Bulley have repeatedly urged investigators to keep an open mind as to what may have happened.
The force has been focussing its attention on the crucial ten minute window between 9.10 and 9.20am.
It has appealed to more than 700 drivers for information and claims to have around 500 active lines of inquiry.
Specialist police divers and search teams will continue to search the river on Thursday and are now focusing their efforts on the lower estuary leading out into Morecambe Bay.
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